Thanksgiving 2020! We made it! A time to (safely) get together with family and friends to celebrate the changing seasons. Whether you’ll be gathered in person, or virtually, we hope you’re able to do so with some great local beer. And if you’re venturing out Sunday and/or Monday, be sure to check that the restaurant, bar, taproom, or brewery is open. As someone who’s been burned by Google Maps hours of operation suggestions a lot recently, always best to call or check social media!
Great news for those in Western New Brunswick, after a few dry years, you now have a local brewery once again! Tobique River Trading Co in Perth-Andover has been open and serving their own coffee for a few months, but have now officially released their first beers. Available now at the brewery in cans and growlers for take home enjoyment, as well as the local ANBL and nearby agency stores. So, what have they put together for you to enjoy? Great question, voice in my head!
- The Old Highway is their 5.7% flagship, a Blonde ale with a crisp finish.
- BeechGlen Blonde, a 5.0% “faux blonde”, bordering on a light lager, with very low bitterness.
- Better on the Tobique, a 6.0% featuring a touch of sweetness from the Honey malt used in the grist, and a complement to all sorts of food dishes.
- Monquat Citra, a 4.8% light and refreshing pale beer, with a serious citrus dry hop to have you thinking this could even be a radler (but it ain’t).
Pop by their spot at 694 Perth Main Street this weekend for your first tastes, and congratulations to the Tobique crew!
Staying within the bubble (don’t we always?), we head just across the PEI border where we have been treated to many …treats… Lone Oak brings us Sour Outage, a 7.0% golden sour with another throwback to Hurricane Dorian from September 2019. Sour Outage was aged on 700lbs of Cherry Plums that staff, friends and family handpicked from The Grove Orchard shortly before Dorian hit last year. After being aged for a months on the cherries, this sour gives a nod to all of the crews working to restore power to Islanders after one of the most devastating storms to hit the Atlantic. Sour Outage is now on tap for pints at the brewery with bottles-to-go available around October 16th.
Nyanza’s Big Spruce has big news this week with an entirely new beer, a very seasonal re-release, and the annual return of a regional favorite. First up is the newbie, a style unseen in this region, we believe. If you’re at all familiar with the Alsace region of France, you’ll know that was a hotly contested area between French and Germanic states for hundreds of years and thus has heavy cultural influences from both sides. Those cultural influences obviously include language and food, but more importantly, beer! Just as Alsatians have their own versions of coq au vin (with Riesling, of course) and Sauerkraut (Choucroute), they also have their own take on the classic German Pilsner (although, somewhat ironically, it has been argued that it’s got more Czech roots than German). Generally featuring a little bit of corn, which flies in the face of the German beer purity law, and local Strisselspalt hops, it’s lighter in color and flavor and more bitter than most French beers. Big Spruce has adopted the corn aspect in their Pils d’Alsace, which they sourced from a farm in Cape Breton that dries corn to make their own grits. Crystal clear, with a big white head, the aroma is redolent of herbs, spices, and biscuit, with floral and herbal notes on the palate and a slightly bready body. The crisp finish will no doubt leave you contemplating the similarities and differences between this substyle and it’s German and Bohemian brethren, but also another sip. This one will likely also be a lovely beer for a study in contrast between pale European with amber European lager, and the folks at Big Spruce are happy to help with that too, as they’re also releasing their very seasonal Amärzen Grace. Amber in color, full-bodied, and balanced very much towards the malt side, Märzen is the OG Oktoberfest style which was served at Oktoberfest in Munich up until the 1950s when it was replaced by the lighter golden Helles Oktoberfestbier style. Big Spruce’s version is 6% ABV and has the color of burnt honey, with an ivory-colored head. Look for notes of toffee and brown bread, with dried and candied fruit notes that lead to a slightly sweet aftertaste. We don’t know that this one will be packaged for retail sale, but we don’t doubt that if you find yourself at finer taprooms around the Province in the next couple of weeks you’ll bump into it.
Also coming out of Big Spruce this week is the return of one of the classic big beers in Atlantic Canada. Ra Ra Rasputin was the brewery’s first bottled beer, announced in early 2016, and is now (we think) in its 5th iteration. In keeping with the tradition established in the past couple of years, there’s more than one version available. As always, the classic formulation is a Russian Imperial Stout that was aged in barrels from Glenora Distillery for three months and then cellared for bottle conditioning for another two months before release. We suspect at this point, with the recipe and process well-defined, that it will be consistent with everything you already love about Ra Ra. This year’s alternate version, however, is a horse of a different color. Started last year, it was aged in tawny port barrels for nine full months, hung out in stainless tanks for an additional three, and then was packaged and given the same two month bottle conditioning period. The result is apparently extremely smooth, with only a touch of alcohol on the nose despite the 10.5% ABV. Look for plenty of barrel character, in terms of both vanillins and tannins, with aromas of sweet vanilla, chocolate, fruit, and coffee, and a palate presentation that’s not unlike black forest cake. Even better, if you’re leery of buying a 650 mL bomber of ~10%-ish beer and having it stare at you from your cellar as you wait for just the right night to commit to taking it on, worry not, Big Spruce has heeded the call of beer geeks everywhere to make a big beer a little more bite-sized: both of this year’s Ra Ra variations are available only in 330 mL single-serve bottles. So you’ll be able to have one by the fire on a chilly fall evening and then walk to bed without risking life and limb!
You’ll be able to try both of these Ra Ra Rasputin variations, and probably the Pils d’Alsace and the Amärzen Grace as well, along with a host of other Big Spruce beers (including a collaboration with Chain Yard Cider) tomorrow at Battery Park in Dartmouth. In total, 19 taps of Big Spruce will be pouring along with seven different vintages of RaRa. Social distancing and mask rules apply, of course, but they can’t stop the great beer from flowing! After that, look for bottles and draught at Bishop’s Cellar and Stillwell Beer Bar.
Moncton, the hub city, rises again with a festive release from Tire Shack. Do you like lagers? Duh. Do you like Vienna? You bet your Schnitzel! Let’s throw that together for a Pumpkin Vienna Lager! The Wickerman, brings a taste of pumpkin and pumpkin spices to a drinkable beer, that doesn’t turn you into Peter Pumpkinhead. It clocks in at 5.0% ABV so you can drink it all Thanksgiving long. The beer was dosed with pumpkin puree in the boil as well as ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, and ground cloves and it will be available for pints, cans and growlers as of noon Friday from the brewery. Hooray for The Wickerman!
If you’ve been in and around the craft beer world over the last couple of years, you’ve no doubt run into the concept of a “pastry stout.” These dark beers generally sport a high ABV, a fair amount of residual sweetness, and some flavor components of whatever crazy thing they were made with (cookies, donuts, candy bars, eclairs…). Many versions have, as time has gone on, eschewed actually adding foodstuffs to the mash in favor of creating a flavor profile reminiscent of those foodstuffs, which many consider a more thoughtful and repeatable approach, not to mention usually much easier to clean up at the end of the brewday. And now that sense of innovation continues as someone thought to ask, “does it need to be a stout?” with the answer being, “Maybe? No? Let’s find out!” Enter Newfoundland breweries Landwash and Baccalieu Trail, who are releasing a collaboration they’re calling Lemon Land. Touted as a “Pastry Ale” it was inspired by the tart and bright flavors of lemon meringue pie. Lots of lemon juice, lemon peel, lactose, and vanilla were added to this brew, with the more traditionally beery side leveraging Cashmere and Sorachi Ace hops. Packaged primarily in cans, only 90 cases are available, available at the Landwash retail shop in Mount Pearl. Those feeling draughty can also grab a pint there, or at co-conspiring Baccalieu Trail this weekend. Whether you just love a new and interesting beer, or if you’re not a whiz with pie crust and you’re looking for an alternate Thanksgiving dessert, if you’re local to the brewery you might want to swing by and grab yourself a few.
Coming off their triumphant takeover at The Stillwell Freehouse last weekend, Halifax’s 2 Crows is dropping two new ones this week just in time for your long weekend beer needs. First up is Laurel, which isn’t actually a new release, at least for those who attended the “2 Crows preview party” some 4 years ago before they opened. (Although that may seem like an obscure reference there’s actually a good chance that amongst our dozen or so readers, some were actually at that event…) In classic 2C “rolls right off the tongue” style, this one is a “tart dark saison with plum and bay leaf.” Starting with a base of Pilsner, dark Munich, and caramel Munich, with some chocolate malt for color and character; dark candi sugar was also added in the boil for additional character and, no doubt, to dry the beer out a little. Hops used were Columbus and East Kent Goldings. Half the wort was soured with Lactobacillus Plantarum before joining the other half and a pitch of the 2C house saison culture. Finally, the beer was conditioned on some 760 kg of plums and then “dry hopped” with bay leaves. The result is rich and smooth, somewhat herbaceous, definitely jammy, but also dry. You can expect some saison spice and plenty of dark fruit character as well. Look for this one in cans and on tap at the brewery as of Saturday.
Next up is the latest 2 Crows iteration on a golden sour, similarly simply described, “Tequila barrel-aged sour with cucumber, sea salt, lime, and mint.” Using their usual base of Pilsner, wheat, spelt, oats and special aromatic malts, with a touch of aged hops, this one was obviously aged in tequila barrels, but a bit also spent time in gin barrels. The remarkable part, though, is that the aging process was some 14 months! Post-barrel, a touch of sea salt was added along with 80 cucumbers that were sliced and diced, and the juice and zest of a whole case of limes. This melange spent about 8 weeks conditioning before a dosing with mint, packaging, and a good four months of bottle conditioning. Fresh and zippy, bright and fun, with enough salinity to have you reaching for another sip, this 5.4% ABV beauty they’re calling Shadow Rider is a limited release with only about 750 bottles available on Saturday. You’ll also find it pouring at the taproom as long as the single keg lasts!
Taking a trip to the Darkside (maybe you’ll be doing that too on the long weekend!), New Scotland Brewing is back with a classic and tasty-looking release. A tribute to the wonderful west coast IPA, Kilted takes a traditional approach to the style using some very classic American hops, Columbus, Centennial, Cascade, and Comet, along with newer varieties that have dominated the market in the last few years, Citra and Simcoe. This hop combination creates a very layered and fruity flavour that is well balanced with Golden Promise malt. Kilted is 6.3% ABV and 65 IBU and available Friday in cans, pints and kegs. Rumour has it that Battery Park already has theirs.
Hanwell, New Brunswick’s Niche Brewing is back on a mixed-fermentation trip with their latest, Southern Accents. Brewed with Pilsner and aromatic malts along with some flaked wheat, it was hopped in the boil and whirlpool with a bit of Citra. Well we do declare, they’ve put Yankee hops in this here Saison! Fermented with a blend of Saccharomyces and Brettanomyces, the result is a funky beer with a touch of sweetness and a bit of a floral presence. You’ll find it at Niche tap accounts including The Joyce, Peppers Pub, Ringo’s Grill, and Stillwell Beer Bar.
A reminder to our homebrewing readers that if you haven’t already brewed your entry for the 2020 Maritime Home Brew Challenge, you need to do that this weekend! Hosted by Gahan, this year’s style categories are encouraging you to take a walk on the hoppier side, with West Coast IPA and New England IPA being the centre of attention. It’s always good to drink these styles fresh, so brewing now will be four weeks until judging. Your $30 entry registration gets you a free t-shirt, entry to the Gala on November 14th at Gahan House Charlottetown, and your chance at more almost $2000 in cash and cards! Plus the priceless prize of bragging rights to the best beer in the Maritimes! Drop off your entry before October 30 at your local Gahan, and good luck! And a heads up that they’re bringing out the big guns for judges this year, including close to a dozen BJCP judges from the region, so expect your feedback to be topnotch. Any questions on that part of it, or any other little thing, hit them up via email.
The Oktoberfests continue this weekend! In addition to Big Spruce’s big event at Battery Park tomorrow, don’t forget that the Stillwell Beergarden is hosting their Oktoberfest tomorrow, featuring the first draught beer from the Valley’s Delta Force Brewing, plus some imported Continental European inspired beauts from Godspeed Brewery in Toronto. Plus Uncorked Tours in Saint John is hosting their own Oktoberfest on the 17th, taking over an extended patio at the Saint John City Farmers’ Market. More on those in last week’s post.
Do you love beer (of course you do!)? Do you love curling? If you answered a resounding “hell yes!” to both questions, then Brightwood Brewery has just the event for you. They’re holding a Sip N’ Spiel Curling & Beer Release tomorrow, October 10th, at the Mayflower Curling Club in Halifax. Let’s fill you in on the beer, first. It’s a dry-hopped Pilsner named Bonspiel that was brewed with late hop additions of Barbe Rouge and Idaho 7, and then a dry-hop of more Barbe Rouge. Hazy, bright yellow, with “lots of red and stone fruit flavours” to go with the classic Pilsner crispness, it will be on tap during once the curling portion of the evening is complete, along with seven other Brightwood beers. Speaking of curling, your $20 ticket fee includes two hours of curling and curling lessons (if needed), starting at 6:30 pm. At 8:30, the party moves upstairs to the bar, where they’ll have live music, and as mentioned, beer! Your ticket also includes a sampling of Brightwood beers (probably a flight, by the sounds), but of course you’re free – and encouraged! – to purchase more. Check out the event link above to buy your ticket.
From our friends as Uncorked Tours, comes another event after their Oktoberfest weekend on the 17th, check out the “IPA and Its Variations with Craig Pinhey” where Craig will take attendees through a whirlwind of IPA styles. From Craig, “I plan to have them taste UK style (hard to find!), West Coast, NEIPA, DIPA, and other variations that are available at the time, like maybe Red, Black, White, Belgian, Sour, etc.”. Check out the Facebook event here to get registered for the Saint John event. Tickets are $50 per person for a 90 minute session at the Uncorked Tasting Room and seating is limited!
Sober Island Brewing is planning an event to scratch your cask itch (btw, you should probably get that looked at by a doctor) – Cask in the Sticks is happening at the brewery on Saturday, November 7th. Featuring eight different cask beers (from seven breweries and homebrewer David Pepper), there will be two sessions available for sampling: 1-3 pm and 4-6 pm. Due to social distancing and everything that goes with that, they have set a limit of 60 people per session, so don’t wait to grab your tickets, even though it’s four weeks away. Tickets are $40 each (tax included), and include eight 4 oz pours and an event-branded toque (DD tickets are also available, for $10). In addition to the casks, they’ll have live music, food available for purchase, and even a “Onesie competition” to encourage layering up (the event will be held outside). Our buds from the 902 Brewcast will be roaming around, judging the onesies, with the winner receiving tickets to next year’s event (take this seriously, folks, you know Phil Church will be putting a lot of thought into HIS onesie). You can purchase your tickets by calling the taproom (902-885-2072). And speaking of the 902 Bcast, be sure to check out their October Tasting episode, which dropped Tuesday. Kyle and Tony chat about what’s happened in the world over the past 3 months since their PEI Trip, new additions to the family, and even about beer for a hot minute.
A few more beers and ciders to quench that holiday weekend thirst!
Just in time for the long weekend, CAVOK Brewing Co. is dropping Champion, a wet hopped ale made with hops harvested just 3 kilometers from the brewery on Rue Champion in Dieppe. Grab this limited release on tap at the taproom, or in crowlers or growlers to-go.
Fans of artistic beer cans should check out Quidi Vidi Brewery this weekend for their release of Director’s Cut, a raspberry and blackberry creamsicle sour. The cans for this 5.5% ABV sour feature 31 (!!) different works from female artists across Newfoundland and Labrador. The artwork is part of a collaboration with the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival which runs from October 14-18. Check out their website for more info. Cans of Director’s Cut are available at the QV Hops Shop along with NLCs and convenience stores across the province. And great news for those who’ve been waiting patiently to grab a pint in QV’s taproom, they are hosting their first Kitchen Party in 6 months today! The doors open at 4 PM, and they’re keeping it local: no visitors or those who have had contact with folks off The Rock, Atlantic Bubble be damned! 😉
If you’re looking for something sessionable this weekend, check out Bannerman Brewing Co’s newest release, Comfort Zone. Coming in at 4.5%, the session ale is full bodied thanks to a heavy addition of flaked oats, to complement the Marris Otter and Caramel malts. A dry hop of Mosaic and Simcoe lends notes of peach, apricot and pear. Available at the brewery/taproom/early morning coffee spot on Duckworth Street now.
Heading north on the island, the team at RagnaRöck is launching the first release in their Hit or Miss series, where tasters will be asked to vote on whether to keep the beer in rotation or set it adrift in the Strait of Belle Isle (ok, we made that part up). Their take on a Cream Ale is light and crisp, and comes in at 5.7% ABV. Find it on-tap now at the taproom in St. Anthony.
Lastly, for those holding out for one last (first? only?) taste of pumpkin-spice season, check out Route 19’s take on the style, Pumpkin Potion. Coming in at a warming 8.5%, this one is available on-tap at the brewpub in Inverness.
There were some updates in growler news this week, with ANBL and Good Robot making changes to their current offerings. ANBL suspended all growler fill stations in March due to the pandemic, but this program will not be returning due to declining sales. Only the flagship location in York Street, Fredericton, will have a growler program available when conditions allow. Check out the full story on CBC here.
Meanwhile, Good Robot will no longer be offering growlers for purchase on their online store for delivery. From Good Robot “They are challenging to transport in our pothole-laden town, costly to replace, difficult to fill on demand to keep fresh, and even more difficult to deliver in a timely fashion.” They will still be offering on-site growler fills as usual, so pop by and get your robot fills as you normally would! The last day for growlers online will be October 16th.
Good Robot is also releasing, Crop Top Summer just in time for Thanksgiving. This 4.1% release is “An amazingly satisfying summertime wheat beer with notes of orange, tangerine and clove.” This is available today at the brewery and available online as well.
Two late-breaking cider additions to the blog today: Annapolis Cider Co has the latest in their Something Different series out tomorrow, Peach and Basil, a 6.3% sparkling cider, a blend of their dry cider infused with locally-grown basil and fresh pressed Valley peaches. As with all of these releases, each refill see $0.50 go to a local charity, with this batch supporting the Portal Youth Outreach Center, whose goal is to reduce youth experiencing homelessness in the Valley.
And Dartmouth’s Lake City Cider has also dabbled in a mixed-fruit blend with Nova Scotia strawberries fermented and steeped along with whole vanilla beans, blended with Valley apples. And then a splash of Blackcurrant wine was added in for a lovely luscious colour and body. Weighing in at 8.5%, cans of Field of Dreams are available in store and online for delivery right now!